Suggested Game identity & focus - weave together gameplay better


Org Co-Founder & Project Lead

Bring identity to our game by weaving in repeated yet subtly tweaked concepts like Gooey variants and a "conlang" (a new constructed language / script uniquely produced for us) into most/all official gameplay templates, now framed as eras in a world the player is experiencing, almost like a time traveler using the game as a time machine to visit the different eras.

Now to see if that TL;DR actually helped or just made overly simplistic examples out of something I could write half a book to explain the finer nuances of. Thought I'd give a super summary a shot :)


We have a great open source project focused on a voxel world engine with some growing bits of familiar and unfamiliar content. Way back 5 years ago when I convinced @begla we could turn his tech demo Blockmania into a real game that was my pitch - go broad with super extensible open source (the code) and super tooling/infrastructure (my focus), then attract as many part time contributors as we could. We couldn't compete with commercial projects (Trove comes to mind as a good example, arriving years after my pitch) nor passion projects (one person or a small local team living like starving artists to produce an indie game like Cube World or Castle Story). Both of us were employed full-time and thousands of miles apart. Same with @Adeon (found Blockmania almost same time as me) and later big contributors like @Immortius.

What we actually got wasn't really a single game, it turned into more of an engine or platform for various kinds of voxel-based content. The more contributors we got the more diverse ideas and less overall focus. Should've seen that coming! We built from a cruder foundation than something like the Minecraft modding community, which had a probably more coherent game to start with, and some interesting challenges to unite them like obfuscated code and peculiar middleware projects. Not that MC mods don't also go all over the map like we've been, with a lot of randomness. Lots of fragmentation, you could say, just in different ways.

We've encountered a lot of very cool and skilled people and it has been an awesome journey so far I hope continues for many more years, meeting many more interesting people. I think @manu3d put it well in his cathedral thread. Several clearly have the skills to pull off the single game indie passion project. I'm for instance pretty convinced @Marcin Sciesinski could solo TerasologyPrime to viable game if he had the time and energy to pull it off, as could several others in our community. A single game is something different that what we have ended up with.

Something that comes up from time to time boils down to Terasology not being that single game - not having a solid identity, a solid game foundation to build on, not just be a solid engine/platform foundation. You can play the game, sure, maybe a bit like MC in the early days. JoshariasSurvival in particular has a fair amount of stuff to do, while GooeysQuests is showing a lot of interesting premise on dungeoneering and structure building. Light and Shadow along with the less well defined Metal Renegades promise a more unique setting you could probably find in a MC style modpack. Throughout The Ages quite specifically went after a TerraFirmaCraft style "hard mode" experience. Lots of other things primarily show that some neat thought in a contributor's head could be created and shown off, even if there isn't much specific purpose other than to see what's possible.

All that is cool in its own way, but probably also leaves us somewhat aimless in the long term, which has and will again cause burnout and disillusioning. Great - you made something super sweet both technically and visually interesting - but nobody is really around to play through it over and over. Nor is whatever really connected to anything else in the game. We need players and we need at least some focus to make improvements and help attract players to try out our different settings.

The Time Machine

I don't think we should abandon the "platform premise" of offering a very wide array of gameplay settings. As any one single focus game we'll be awash in a sea of superior games thanks to superior focus. But if we can weave our templates/eras together, maybe we can get a nice mix of both - a variety of settings, but with an overall identity.

That brings me to the following idea: Consider Terasology the game as The Time Machine - a vessel that transports the player between different eras on a world that might change in huge ways between the eras, but some parallels between the ages can always be found.

Found some ruins or artifacts from the past? Some/all of the writing is usually in the same custom script, maybe with some tweaks specific to certain eras. Somewhere in the bestiary of the world you'll find some variant of Gooey.

The "base era" is where the script comes from (in its pristine form) before somehow the world met an apocalypse leading to the bare world you usually start in (x number of years/decades/centuries/millenia after). Gooey somehow came about in various ways since. Eras could even be ordered by age if we want to give them some order in that sense.
  • Light & Shadow: The glyphs and other lore-related bits of the world explaining the backstory are written in our script, and we make one or more of the neutral critters take on some of Gooey's characteristics
  • Metal Renegades: Old schematics are written in our script, Gooey is present as "Googgalos" (cattle)
  • Josharias Survival / Throughout The Ages: We add classic Gooey (a la GooeysQuests) as a world creature. Maybe some of the machines have visible but mysterious flavor text in our script (it doesn't have to play an active role every time)
  • City-bearing settings: Add signs to shops (and barrels, and other things) written in our script, maybe flavor-name some things after Gooey ("The Gelatinous Tavern" with a drawing of a tipsy Gooey)
  • Untrue Tao: Blueprints written in our script from before the Great War are scattered about the world for the players to find and learn of the world that was while recreating technology. Mutant Gooeys roam the world, irradiating stuff. Probably few to none remember UT at this point, poke me elsewhere if curious ;)
We could even put together a sort of "franchise package" - kinda like a fan-site kit but with game assets and logic, that makes it easy to link a new gameplay template to the overall theme of the game. Any major novel / core gameplay setting could try to work that sort of piece in, complete with a way to apply our few common elements. Just depend on this "Franchisee" module and apply some config to how you want it to appear in your gameplay.
  • Custom script - our unique conlang (see its thread for details). Get the font and maybe some UI elements to help investigate, understand, and use it in-game.
    • Systems like alchemy, magic, enchanting, dynamic plants, etc could include a discovery element where the player puzzles out which symbols connect to what
  • Some sort of Journal approach to introduce the player to the world and put notes when learning more about it
  • Gooey - we already have multiple variants, can make more. Models and maybe some interaction logic.
  • ???
In addition to that we naturally could also emphasize the same assets on our sites. Start adding some more flavor graphics to our docs with Gooey and or script symbols. Might help when Gooey grows up on IRC and Slack and starts becoming more useful.

You could still have unrelated gameplay templates if desired, and could also base a custom set of modules on a specific era including the theme from it.

What else could we add? Does it seem like a promising way to give more identity to the project/game? Any other good options?


Development Lead
  • (+1) Franchise Kit; integrate golden thread to "our" modules (like NameGenerator)
  • (+1) Journal; expand it to contain entries from all eras (i.e., save game overview)
  • Promotion Kit; we need more wallpapers and better module presentation

Short story long:

Overall you are right - we have a nice engine and a lot of puzzle pieces around, but no consistent game experience. Introducing a golden thread throughout game modes and scenarios would be a huge win!

In order to actively encourage content developers to integrate references and "eater eggs" to the back story it hast to be a very simple task to do so. Having a "franchise kit" of sorts would definitely be helpful. Supplying them with graphics assets, the script/language and glyphs, etc. is one thing. Getting some of our "back-end resources" (like name generator) to include these references by default would also be promising.

I like the journal approach you mentioned. Not only to introduce players to the world, but also to collect notes from different eras in a single place. This common journal could be accessible from the main menu directly, and every game module could add something custom to it - a huge backlog of your playing history. Imho that's something way cooler than a plain list of old save games!

As already mentioned on IRC, transporting this common theme out of the game is another goal. We could revive weekly/monthly wallpapers, and provide a "promotion kit" with resources (logos, gooey vector graphics, ...) to use for the artsy stuff. In addition, it would be nice to give the existing game play modules a better display. Maybe even with a common theme, so that it is visible that JS and LaS are variants of the same game - Terasology!


Conjurer of Grimoires
Just a couple thoughts now that my brain has engaged...

Journal seems to be a similar idea to the achievement systems in other game platforms. I like the way it would tie things together and cause easy ways to add goals to a gameplay template. That way there would be a nice way to "win" a gameplay template other than, "your creativity is your reward" type of goals.

It would be cool to include an easy way to distinguish in game which players have met the gameplay goal. Maybe a floating happy face above each "winner"? (no, dont do this)

Concern: would we need these journal entries to persist across servers?


Development Lead
Imho journal entries would be a client-side per-player feature which just collects bits of information. As long as we do not have a player database where you want to synchronize your achievements gained on different servers I don't see the problem.
However, if the journal entries should be more than just some info we would need to think about synchronization and permissions.